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US approves military aid for close ally

Support for Israel despite rising civilian deaths in Gaza rankles some Democrats

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-03 09:50

A Jewish boy looks out to Gaza from the Givat Kobi scenic point, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in southern Israel, April 1, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

The United States has approved the authorization of billions of dollars worth of bombs and fighter jets to Israel, though the administration of US President Joe Biden continues to publicly express concerns over rising civilian casualties in the Gaza enclave, a move that has rankled some Democrats in Congress.

The arms packages, approved recently, include more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs, said the sources, who confirmed a report in The Washington Post.

Rifts have emerged between the US and Israel over the conduct of the conflict, but the Biden administration views weapons transfers as off-limits when considering how to influence the actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Post.

The US provides $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to its longtime ally.

The news website Politico said it will be years before the weapons arrive in Israel.

The 2,000-pound bombs, which can inflict damage to people up to 300 meters away, have been "linked to previous mass casualty events throughout Israel's military campaign in Gaza", the Post reported.

Some Democrats, including allies of Biden, say the US government has a responsibility to withhold weapons in the absence of an Israeli commitment to limit civilian casualties during a planned operation in Rafah, the final Hamas stronghold, and ease restrictions on humanitarian aid into the enclave, which is on the brink of famine.

Washington's support for Israel has rankled some Democrats in Congress, some of whom have called for more transparency in arms transfers, the Post reported.

"The Biden administration needs to use their leverage effectively and, in my view, they should receive these basic commitments before greenlighting more bombs for Gaza," Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen told the Post. "We need to back up what we say with what we do."

Larger rift

Reporting from Washington, Al Jazeera said the transfer "amounts to about $2.5 billion", adding that "this is taking place despite a growing rift between both the Israeli and US governments".

While Washington is publicly pressuring Israel to "dial back "its fighting in Gaza, its policy moves are sending an entirely different signal, Marc Owen Jones, an associate professor of Middle East studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, told Al Jazeera.

On Saturday, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized the US, posting on X that "demanding Netanyahu to stop killing civilians and supplying him with weapons is an unprecedented principled and moral contradiction".

Josh Paul, who resigned from the State Department in protest over the US' continued military assistance to Israel, said the consummation of the arms deal would be "further proof "that the administration is unwilling to take a tough stand on Israel.

"I think for all the president's talk of wanting to restrain Israel's operations in Rafah, this is continuing evidence that in practice, the administration continues to move on transfers for Israel, regardless of the situation on the ground in Gaza and the political context in the US," Paul said. "It is committed to its support for Israel, and this is proof of that."

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